The Southern-Western  traditional wedding ritual


The village wedding is a lengthy and complicated ritual. It is almost a type of drama with musical pices and characters introduced and incorporated at specific moments to propel the action of the "play".

In Southern-Western Russia the wedding ritual consist of three main section: mathchmaking,  the engagement and the wedding ceremony.

Matchmaking is the most private part of the wedding ritual. Reverder older men(svaty) begin negotiation for the groom on an appointted evening  in the house of the bride. The matchmaking delegation poses as hunters or merchants and attemps to exchange plesantries with the father of

 the bride. The master of the house accuse them of being thieves and tries to forse the delegation from his house. The match is recognized when the master of the house gives the svaty bread and the svaty give the  master vodka. At no time is the match spoken of directly.

The engagementis called propoy, literally meaning to squander on drink. The father of the bride drinks a glass in a symbolic gesture to demonstrate his agreement of the match. Details of the wedding are discussed, people are assigned roles and the first wedding song are sung as a type of communal blessing. The main goal of the Russian wedding is acceptance by the whole community.

The bride begins the lament. According to tradition,  she will leave her family forever. The representative of the bride (Svakha) with the ritual wedding speeches unplaits the bride's singl braid and removes the scarlet ribbon from her hair.(The scarlet ribbon and single braid are symbols  of virginiti.) Her friends trying to calm the bride sing various songs and playing games.

Preparations at the groom’s house on the morning of the ceremony resemble an army preparing for battle. The groom and his friends and relatives are all named for characters in Russian royalty. The groom’s best man (Druzhka) organized to travel to the house of the bride. The train is a series of carriages organized stricly according to hierarchy. There is much singing, dancing and drinking during the jorney. When the train arrives at the bride’s yard, the gates are locked.

A group of young men with sticks protects the gates of the bride. Peace talks begin with  Druzhka as the main negotiator. However a yard  devastated by wedding battle. After the groom is inside the bride’s yard, he must select his bride from a line-up of women. Svakha then attempts to confuse the groom as he must marry the woman he chooses. The couple is then seated together at the “honored place”.The guests sing songs to the father of the bride, urging  him to  prepare a sumptuous wedding feast. The parents of the bride and groom bless the young couple with bread, salt and the family icon. The wedding party departs for the church.

(The church wedding ceremony is called The Coronation because the bride and groom stand underneath crowns) After the ceremony, the guests travel  to the house of the groom. Each character in the wedding has a specific song sung to him at this time. Guests shout encouragements and various obscenities as the bride and groom leave for bed. It should provide them fertile and happy married life.


Music and ritual of these regions of Russian inspired Igor Stravinsky to create his masterpiece “Les Noces”.